The Missing Link Reviews

James Whale

by James Curtis. Scarecrow Press. Hardback. 245 pages. 18.75

James Whale on the set of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)As most of Scarecrow Press books tend to have extortionate price tags, it is not often that I can afford to indulge. However, seeing James Whale's gold embossed name standing out in the Cinema Section of the bookstore I decided that this was an essential purchase.

This first entry to Scarecrow Press' "Scarecrow Filmmakers Series" is to the best of my knowledge the first book length study of the famous director. James Curtis' allegiance to Whale's genius runs deep and he quite rightly maintains that his best works were his horror films, but he is keen to point out that the director's work outside of the genre should not be dismissed.
Whale had initially moved to Hollywood carrying with him a reputation for war movies in light of his success with JOURNEY'S END and his contribution to Howard Hughes' HELL'S ANGELS. Using this as a starting block, Whale attempted to prove himself worthy in other areas and his subsequent work for Universal showed the world that he was a director of considerable talent, displaying a penchant for plot development, camera placement, and above all his choice of actors for principal roles.

Whale's quartet of horror films for the studio, Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), found great success partly due to the casting of British actors with whom he had worked with in Britain during the Twenties. After 1935, Whale seemed to abstain from the horror genre while attempting to move on to bigger and more spectacular productions.

Curtis' study also includes detailed accounts of Whale's formative years including his work as an actor and director in stageplays right up until his retirement in 1941 and his death clouded under mysterious circumstances in May, 1957. Each stage of the director's life is accompanied with superb photographs that nicely complement the absorbing text.
Ask any horror film fan their top ten favourites and you'll certainly find at least one James Whale film somewhere in the list. Curtis' book has filled a gap in documenting a key figure of cinema's history, and although the cover price is a little on the high side, this book is invaluable.

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